Italian houses in Maenza hit the market for just $ 1.60: just an hour’s drive from Rome
Italy’s ongoing clearance sale of € 1 (around $ 1.60) homes has been ideal for people looking to start a new life in some of the more remote corners of the country.
For those looking for something a little closer to the action – closer to Rome, to be precise – the choices have been slim. Until now.
This month, the bucolic town of Maenza became the first in the Lazio region of Rome to start selling homes for just over a dollar.
The historic location, perched on the wild hills of Lepini south of the capital, where shepherds and fire tribes once lived, provides dozens of abandoned stone dwellings in hopes of attracting new occupants .
Mayor Claudio Sperduti says he is launching an ambitious “pact for the rebirth” of his hometown with the aim of breathing new life into its quiet alleys. The goal, he says, is to reclaim all the disused ruined properties by liaising between the former owners and potential buyers drawn by the slashed prices.
“We are moving step by step. As original families contact us and hand over their old homes to us, we bring them to the market through specific public notices on our website so that everything is very transparent, ”Sperduti told CNN.
Interested buyers are also encouraged to contact City Hall to make specific property requests and local authorities will attempt to accommodate their requirements.
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The city hopes it can breathe new life into a hundred neglected properties, some of which have become a potential danger to passers-by due to their dilapidated state.
Applications for the first homes on sale close on August 28, but the mayor reassures those missing that more will be put on the market as talks are underway with their original owners.
Those who manage to buy a property in Maenza must commit to renovating it within three years and shell out a deposit guarantee of $ 8,196 to be returned once the work is completed.
A detailed renovation plan of what will become of the property – whether it is a house, a Bed & Breakfast, a store or a restaurant – must also be filed.
Residence is not compulsory, but families with children and young couples who wish to live in Maenza semi-permanently are encouraged to apply, explains Sperduti.
If more than one applicant wants the same home, priority will be given to those who want to move in and those who plan the fastest renovations.
Sperduti says his town, unlike others, does not offer $ 1.90 housing to stop the population from declining, even though it has barely passed 3,000 in the past 20 years.
Instead, it’s about preventing real estate agents and speculators from snatching up old homes to make money.
“Families and young people often leave the city to move to bigger houses in neighboring towns and villas in the countryside, but there is always a newcomer taking their place so it’s balanced,” says Sperduti.
“It’s not a dying city, people still live in the old quarter, but it needs a renewal, a fresh oxygen.
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“This is a long-term stimulus project that gives interested buyers time to come and see for themselves what Maenza has to offer, including other attractive opportunities.
Illuminated “sale” signs have been attached to many doors, some of which retail for a slightly higher price.
“An owner who was desperate to get rid of his old property, even if it meant giving it away for free, finally sold it for € 3,000 [approx. $4,918] to a person who showed up in town, ”said the mayor.
“The house isn’t great, but it doesn’t collapse to the ground either.
“Since most older homes are small, around 50 to 70 square meters, renovating them is a relatively inexpensive proposition.
Tax deductions for eco-friendly renovations and earthquake-resistant upgrades mean, according to Sperduti, costs start at $ 163 per square meter.
So, prices for reviving a dilapidated house should start at around $ 8,196.
Maenza was founded by shepherds fleeing Saracen coastal raids but later flourished with the arrival of the Germanic Volsci tribes who, after two centuries of bloody wars, surrendered to the Roman Empire.
The origin of the city’s name is said to refer to the German city of Mainz, but locals prefer to claim that it comes from a Latin expression meaning “people who prosper”.
On a clear day, the view from Maenza stretches to the promontory of Circe – where legend has it that Odysseus was bewitched by the witch Circe – and to the Pontine Islands.
The town overlooks a fertile former swamp dotted with lush gardens, kiwi groves, lakes and grazing buffalo.
The surrounding forests of chestnut, beech, holm oak and walnut are traversed by wild horses.
Hiking, horseback riding, and biking trails lined with wild orchids take place in a mountain hideaway stocked with food, firewood, and coffee.
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The Middle Ages were Maenza’s golden age followed by bloody seizures of power, with continuous battles between feudal lords and the Holy See.
For decades it was under the control of the cruel papal Borgia family. Part of the city was bombed during World War II.
The recently restyled overhanging baronial castle is where Saint Thomas Aquinas is said to have performed the miracle of turning sardines into herring, fish hitherto unknown in Italy.
The old quarter is a maze of winding arched alleys, narrow passages and staircases with immense cobblestones, made shining by the passage of cars and clogs through the centuries, and thick stone portals adorned with friezes. Emblems and coats of arms adorn the buildings.
The best view is from the Loggia dei Mercanti where travelers and pilgrims once rested and merchants gathered to sell their wares.
The $ 1.90 houses currently on sale, dating from the 1700s, overlook a small plaza and offer unique sea views of the Pontine Islands.
They are made of large, dark gray rough stones with thick window frames and an arched entrance gate.
Inside, old tiles still decorate the walls, dusty chairs lean against cracked walls, and wooden doors hang from hinges. The fitted kitchenettes are rusty and broken. Among the items left behind are ladders, chandeliers still hanging from the ceiling, and old refrigerators.
Maenza is renowned for its succulent cherries and the beauty of its women. There’s a place called the “Pretty Women’s Quarter,” which might also nod to a more sleazy red light district, though.
Some of Lazio’s most beautiful seaside spots are within walking distance, including Terracina, Sabaudia, Sperlonga and Gaeta.
Concerts, art exhibitions and watermelon tasting competitions are held in summer alongside food fairs.
Local specialties include cherry jams, syrups, liqueurs and honey. The “crespelle” are crispy golden strips of fried dough covered in sugar and flavored with cinnamon, lemon, raisins and pine seeds. The secret recipe is passed on through families.
Other flagship dishes include dried and spicy “coppiette” horse meat strips, smoked olives, fettuccine pasta with artichokes, potato gnocchi, snail soups, polenta with snail sauce, wild boar, hare and delicious buffalo milk mozzarella.
How to wash everything? A shot of local fragoletto flavored with strawberries.
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